26 June 2007

REPOST 7/29/2006 Writer's Block

Not me, of course! I'm in the club that says, "I had writer's block once. It was the scariest ten minutes of my life." No, not really. I actually had a dry spell of about 7 years once. When you are in turmoil, it's hard to be creative. But eventually, your life straightens out, and you have to get back on that pony and ride, because you ARE a creative person, and you cannot live without writing forever.

Whether you are recovering from the long, hard dry spell...for whatever reason or you are just stuck on a scene, this blog post may be of help to you. I hope it is.

Having been through the long, dry spell myself... I suggest a few things to help you get back in the swing.

1) Write something silly, off the wall, really WHACKED out. That shakes things up and gets the juices flowing.

2) People watch for a couple of days. Listen and look for a scene that strikes you or a phrase that does and make that your jump-off point for a new project.

3) Pick a theme and try to write to it. Or let chance pick it...the first thing you see, the first ad you hear, the first person you talk to as a character.

4) Listen to the calls for submissions we put out and let one spark an idea for you.

5) Start planning a character. Just create someone and ask him/her what is so damned important about him/her and see where that takes you.

6) Use the writing as catharsis. Kill off your ex...or send him to jail. Have a boss that annoys you? Make her vampire chow. I'm serious. It works WONDERS for getting you moving again...even if you destroy it later.

If you get stuck in writing a book...

1) Try rereading the scene with the POVs of the other characters in mind. Are you staying true to those characters while you are writing from another? If you have slipped out of character for someone...anyone in the scene, it may stop you flat until you find it and fix it. The readers won't like you losing characterization either. It's jarring, even if you can't figure out why it is.

2) Try backtracking until the last place it WORKED. Set aside (DO NOT throw away) everything after that point and trying writing it again, making different choices. There is the possibility that you're writing yourself into a corner or into a plot twist you don't really want or like, and you need to go a different direction. Don't throw away what you had, because you may be able to rip off portions for another place in the book...or even write an alternate scene for promo, ala CLUE.

3) If you are a plotter, you may find that the original plot concept is not working for you. Try replotting from the point it's working to the end and see what changes your mind has going for the book. I know authors who do this 3-4 times per book. Once you stop trying to FORCE the book to match the original outline, you can usually get moving again.

4) Do a synopsis of the book as you've written it so far. Is most of the plot falling into either internal conflict or external? Try mixing some of the opposite into the mix and see what happens next.

5) Maybe you just don't know where to go next. If you are a plotter, look for a hole. You are at X and need to reach Y, so figure out how to segway there. Not just a straight shot either! What complication will make reaching point Y all the harder for the characters? What can they learn on the way? What value can be given to the segway?

6) Try not writing linear. This is a hard one for some authors to accept. You do NOT have to write linear. In fact, nothing longer than a short story comes out of me linear. If you just can't get your head in scene 10, but scene 12 is screaming at you, write scene 12. Later, when you have worked out your problems, go back and write scene 10 and scene 11. The truth is that filling holes is often easier than writing the scene cold, with no idea of what comes next. And writing what is clear to you is always easier than writing what you're fighting with.

7) Maybe the characters need a shake-up, especially if you are a character-driven author. Try doing the meanest thing you possibly can to them. I mean that. What will complicate thier lives the worst? Make it harder for them to reach the goal? Basically screw them up, tear them down, take them to rock bottom and make them fight their way back up. It's evil but fun and effective.

8) Maybe you're bored with the story or too immersed in it. Try working on another project for a while to clear the mind then come back and tackle it again. Breaks from the grind can be very beneficial and bring you in with a fresh perspective.

9) Reread everything you have on the project. Sometimes that sparks a link-up you didn't consciously see. It's also a good way to get back into a project you've left for a while...reading part...or all of it.

10) Go out and people watch for a while. I'm serious. Sometimes, people will spark an idea for what you're missing...or rather what the book is.

The important thing is to spark interest and to force the rusty method moving again. The more you get moving, the easier it is to get moving. What I put out are just ideas to spark off something.

A friend has told me many times, "You can edit a page full of crap, but you can't edit a blank page." Let yourself write crap for a while before you demand perfection.

True story! Dr. Seuss/Ted Giesel ROUTINELY threw away 90 percent of everthing he wrote, and he wrote more than 50 books, ad copy and screenplays (one of them netted him an Oscar) in 70 years in this business. He also wrote and illustrated at least 8 hours a day, seven days a week, whether part of that was writing ad copy or not.

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